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25 Sep 2010

Review: Taiwaskivi (Halo Manash)

Halo Manash
Aural Hypnox, 2009

There is a real mystique and awe surrounding Halo Manash, experimental psychic-sonic pioneers from Suomi whose unique menagerie of drones, found instruments, and primal spirit combine to yield a truly unique experience of solemn but untamed ritualism.

Woven from droning keyboards (and who knows what else); resonant gongs, chimes, bells, and other percussion; primitive horns; otherworldly animalistic vocals and chants; and icy samples of the Finnish wilderness, these recordings evoke the silver-gold winter clouds of the arctic horizon with an eerie precision.

The music of this release is more in the vein of aural soundscapes than definite songs, and the album invites deep and repeated listens in order to fully assimilate its many layers of texture, hiss, and mystery. This is music for the patient, deep, nature-loving listener; the very antithesis of shallow modern pop music.

It is extremely hard to evoke the experience of listening to this album. It feels as though it plays out almost entirely on the very threshold between consciousness and ancient unconsciousness. There is a sense of grandeur, poise, and stately drama – the music is elegant but raw, sophisticated but primitive.

The sense of the dark forces of the collective unconscious or of Nature looming or lurking is palpable; there is something quite frightening about these compositions.

Perhaps the most graphic example of this uncanniness can be found on track five, “Renunciation – A Jewel Bowl for the Final Feast.” The heart of this piece is a rattling, wooden noise that evokes the image of malevolent spirits or unhinged beasts struggling furiously to pry open a rickety locked door, perhaps that of an isolated, snow-bound wilderness shack. Battering at the door, the threshold of humanity, these beings threaten to burst through and lay waste to the conscious ego, the pent up fury of their repression in the underworld (or the wilds of the Utangard?) cruel and inexorable. The strange unearthly vocals – beastly and demonic – that accompany these understated yet disturbing noises complete the sound picture perfectly.

This is truly atavistic music, an exploration of the deepest, darkest layers of the psyche and beyond, forces so intense that only sensitive implication – such as the minimalism of this album – can evoke them (more hack handed attempts to do the same, such as the over the top posturing of most so-called brutal death metal acts, become ridiculous self-parody and insincerity in comparison).

Yet it must be emphasised that the darkness of this music is not a reckless or gratuitous provocation; it is a sincere and loving journey into the primal deeps of Nature, life, and death. Peter Carroll’s wise observation that “a god denied is a demon created” bears great relevance, I believe, to the appreciation of this album.

Accompanying the release is a DVD which presents a slow moving, sepia tinted film set to the music of the album. The footage reveals remote and forbidding wilderness locations, with masked and robed figures conducting mysterious, symbol-rich animistic rituals. To be honest, the film moves very, very slowly, and in combination with the sedate music I found it a little hard to sit through. Yet the scenes and imagery remain with me, bursting into my consciousness at odd moments like messages from my own anima.

The release is presented in beautifully designed packaging that really merits appreciation for its own sake. All in all an unsettling, subtle, and very deep album that truly lives up to the hype that has grown up around Halo Manash’s esoteric vision.

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